A Katy teenager expelled last fall from Cy-Fair ISD for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance still doesn’t have her diploma, but she said there’s good news afoot. A federal judge ruled that her family’s lawsuit can proceed over allegations that her expulsion was racially driven and violated her constitutional rights.
Standing resolutely before reporters outside Houston’s federal courthouse in a Bruce Lee T-shirt, former student India Landry, who is African American, discussed the ruling by U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison, who found she has a legitimate claim that her equal protection rights were breached.
Her lawyer, Randall Kallinen, has expanded the civil rights lawsuit to include more teachers and an administrator whom the family seeks to find liable for denying her rights and derailing her education. The suit claims the district and multiple employees violated her rights to free speech, equal protection and due process.
According to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, Broward deputies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas violated the constitutional rights of the survivors of February’s school massacre by failing to stop the gunman when he showed up on campus.
The ruling cites a 1943 Supreme Court case — West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette — in which the court found that public school students do not have to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Cy-Fair district will not comment on the case while the litigation is pending, said Houston attorney Christopher B. Gilbert, of Thompson Horton, who represents the district in the case.
Landry’s lawyer Kallinen, who is handling a simultaneous claim by a student who was harassed for not standing for the Pledge at Kline ISD, said Cy-Fair has declined to retract its policy or to discipline the administrators involved.
The student’s silent protest in October came amid a rallying cry by President Donald Trump that it was unpatriotic for NFL players and other professional athletes to kneel during the national anthem. Athletes, following the example of former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, said they were not standing to draw attention to a surge of African American civilians killed by police.
Landry was a senior at Windfern High School, an alternative school she began attending after falling behind at Cypress Springs High School. The lawsuit says she had been harassed and sent to the office several times for sitting during the school pledge. But when the school principal, Martha Strother, saw her doing this, she told her to stand. When Landry didn’t, she was expelled.
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The teen and her mother, Kizzy Landry, said they find it ridiculous when people say the girl’s actions are offensive to members of the armed forces, since three family members have served in the Army.
The decision to sit is simply her right and her choice, the India Landry explained.
“The flag doesn’t represent what it says it does,” she said.